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Once the cards get full, you need to go ahead and get them into the computer. Now, maybe it's still in the camera, so pop it out. Or take it out of your card wallet, in any case. I recommend that you go ahead and connect it to a fast card reader. I prefer USB 3 these days, but you will find Thunderbolt readers on occasion, or maybe you have an older system, and take advantage of FireWire 800. In any case, get the fastest card reader you can find. Using the built-in slot on the laptop, is often a lot slower. The same holds true for desktop computers.
I find that the highest quality ones, that are usually external readers, are significantly faster. Carefully take the card and mount it, making sure that you line it up in the slot, and push it in. At this point, the card will become mounted. There's my card, and you see that I've got a DCIM folder and inside of that, a camera specific folder. Now many people just grab the individual images, but I'm a bigger fan of taking it all the way at the DCIM level.
You can select the entire folder and choose Edit Copy or a right click would do the same. Select the target, and choose to Paste. And the same behavior is available on a PC. I recommend that you copy the entire folder. Because sometimes there's extra things in there, like metadata. Or maybe you had video files. It's never a bad idea to go all the way to the top level. Typically, after I paste that in, I'll rename it with some details about the shoot, giving the folder a unique name, as well as some date information about when it was acquired.
This is an easy way to copy and paste data, but it's not necessarily a verified copy, so you might choose to use a third-party utility to ensure that every bit of data is successfully transferred. For example, with a tool like Carbon Copy Cloner, you would select the card, and its contents, and then choose a destination. I can actually get in here and be very specific, and Choose an Exact folder, Make a folder, make a Sub folder by the card, and then Target it.
When ready, I can click Clone and this will make a complete clone. The warning here is because the dialog detects that this card is not a typical format for a Mac hard drive, but that's okay. Clicking Continue and then Authorizing it, will initiate the complete transfer. And notice, it actually tells you the accurate time. Shows you the amount of data that's been transferred and will perform a verified copy. This gives you greater confidence that the data that was on the card has a bit for bit match on the drive itself.
You'll find utilities like this for both Mac and Windows. Notice the copy has been completed. I can click OK. And it verified that the copy was successful. Sometimes if you just drag and drop or copy and paste a card, you don't actually know that the file data has been verified. If you want the safest transfer, use a utility like this. Or the photo downloader that comes with Bridge or even Lightroom. But I'm a big fan of getting everything transferred to my hard drive. And let's take a minute to talk about what type of hard drive you should be using.
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